Formal versus Informal Knowledge Networks in R&D: A Case Study Using Social Network Analysis
18 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2007
The existence of informal social networks within organizations has long been recognized as important and the unique working relationships among scientific and technical personnel have been well documented by both academics and practitioners. The growing interest in knowledge management practices has led to increased attention being paid to social network analysis as a tool for mapping the nature and membership of informal networks. However, despite the knowledge-intensive nature of research and development (R&D) activities, social network analyses of the R&D function remain relatively rare. This paper discusses the role of informal networks in the development, exchange and dissemination of knowledge within the R&D function. A case study using social network analysis is used to compare and contrast formal and informal knowledge networks within ICI. Marked differences between the informal organization and ICI's formal structures for knowledge exchange are revealed and a series of insights into the working habits of technical staff are presented. The implications for managers are clear: through a better understanding of the informal organization of R&D staff, they can more successfully capture and exploit new ideas; more efficiently disseminate information throughout the function; and more effectively understand the working habits and activities of employees.
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